Get A Better Drum Sound

If you’re recording a band, the most difficult instrument to get right is usually the drums. With so many different (loud) elements in close proximity, mic bleed is a major issue – not to mention the minefield that is mic selection. But there are plenty of alternative approaches…

Get The Rhythm (Before It Gets You)

Certainly for any genre that uses live instruments, recording a real live drummer is the best way to get a drum track (for hardcore techno, a drum machine will do just fine, of course). However, it can be a bit expensive and inconvenient to rent a studio and hire a drummer for every song.

The home studio producer has a variety of options for getting some rhythm. Using samples of real drums is one approach – if you have a good library, you can find a series of clips that roughly match your tune and tweak them to fit with a bit of elastic audio work and some EQ.

However, a more flexible approach would be to use a drummer plug in and a MIDI groove library. I’ve used Native Instruments Battery, Toontrack EZDrummer and Propellerheads Drum Kits Refill for Reason, and they each have their advantages.

The most powerful of the three is certainly Battery, but it does require a bit more tweaking to get things just right. However, it does have great humanizing functionality, allowing you to assign a certain degree of variation in timing, velocity and position which keeps things interesting.

The Drum Kits refill is perfect if you’re just using Reason, but for other DAWs you might prefer a more direct plugin, rather than having to use Reason with ReWire. However, due to its efficient engine, Reason actually works very well as a ‘plugin’.

It’s All About The Groove

For a plug and play option, EZDrummer is excellent, and comes with a decent MIDI groove library. MIDI grooves are the starting point for getting an authentic drum sound – these are MIDI loops captured from real performances, categorised by genre/style, and can be applied to any plugin.

Once you find one that suits, you then can go in and move around each element of the kit to suit your track – tweak the kick and hihat, but leave the snare and shaker where they are, if that’s what works. It’s a lot easier than manipulating the audio in a drum sample, and it’s easy to pan and change the level of each element, as well as adding in extra hits, or removing ones you don’t want…


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